When crafting a follow-up to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time it’s understandable that one might be reticent to mess with a winning formula. But director Todd Phillips and writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong seem to have confused revisiting with recycling: The Hangover Part II so closely mirrors its blockbuster predecessor in every vital aspect that it can scarcely claim the right to call itself a sequel.
The only significant new wrinkle introduced in Part II is its setting: Bangkok Thailand a location that at least theoretically augurs well for a second helping of inspired lunacy. The story structure of the first film has been copied wholesale a game of Mad Libs played with its script. The action is again set around a bachelor party this time in honor of buttoned-down dentist Stu (Ed Helms). Again the boys (Stu Bradley Cooper’s boorish frat boy Phil and Zach Galifianakis’ moronic man-child Alan) awaken the next day in a hideously debauched hotel room with little memory of the previous night’s revelry. And again there is a missing companion: Teddy (Mason Lee son of Ang) the brother-in-law to be. (Poor Justin Bartha is once again relegated to the sidelines popping up now and then to push the plot forward via cell phone.)
The amnesiac/investigative angle of the first Hangover made for a refreshing twist on the contemporary men-behaving-badly comedy. Repeated here its effect is arguably the opposite: Too often the action feels rote and formulaic. Gone is any hint of surprise an aspect so crucial to good comedy and a huge part of the first film’s appeal. Key comic set pieces – a tussle with monks at a Buddhist temple a visit to a transsexual brothel a car chase involving a drug-dealing monkey – reveal themselves to be merely variations of memorable bits from the first film.
Tonally Part II is darker cruder and a bit nastier than its predecessor. Female characters never a priority in the first film are further marginalized in the sequel. (The only woman with significant dialogue a Bangkok prostitute also happens to have a penis. I’ll let you ponder the implications of that one.) The three leads Helms Cooper and Galifianakis still work well together and despite the inferior material enough of their chemistry remains to make the proceedings bearable – and occasionally funny. But their characters feel somehow degraded reduced to coarse caricatures of their former selves. Speaking of caricature Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) the fey faux-gangsta villain of the first film returns in an expanded capacity in the sequel his garbled hip-hop slang more gratuitous – and more grating – than before.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been if a planned cameo by Mel Gibson playing a tattoo artist hadn’t been scrapped reportedly due to objections by Galifianakis. Liam Neeson Gibson’s replacement apparently proved ineffectual in his first go-round and when he wasn't available for re-shoots his scene was eventually shot with Nick Cassavetes in the role. In its existing incarnation the scene is purely functional a chunk of forgettable exposition. The presence of Gibson an actor of not inconsiderable comic talent would have at least added an air of unpredictability something the scene – and indeed the movie – sorely lacks.
Linda Ronstadt ejected by Vegas casino
Singer Linda Ronstadt was thrown out of the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas Saturday night after she dedicated a performance of "Desperado" to filmmaker Michael Moore and his latest documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. Aladdin spokeswoman Sara Gorgon told Reuters the dedication angered some Aladdin guests, who booed, spilled drinks, tore down posters and demanded refunds, while about a quarter of the 4,500 people in the audience left before the performance had finished. A statement issued by the Aladdin said Ronstadt had been escorted out of the hotel just after her performance and said the performer would "not be welcomed back." The statement added Ronstadt was hired to entertain the guests of the Aladdin, not to promote political views. Ronstadt was unavailable for comment, but in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal before the show Ronstadt was quoted as saying she hoped the casino gig would be her last. "I keep hoping that if I'm annoying enough to them, they won't hire me back," she said. Her next performance will be at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
Britney swigs ginseng, not whiskey
Britney Spears is threatening to sue the New York Post after the paper printed an image of the pop star drinking from a tiny bottle on its cover Thursday, with the front-page headline "Britney Hits the Bottle" and an inside headline that read "Boozer Britney: Daylight Bottle Blonde." The story claimed Spears was drinking was Glenlivet whiskey. Spears said she is actually drinking a vial of the herbal supplement ginseng, which she bought from a Venice, Calif., liquor store on July 12. According to MTV News, the singer is prepared to sue the Post unless the paper prints an immediate retraction. The paper argues it twice gave Spears the chance to dispel the whiskey story but said her rep she declined to comment each time.
Advocacy groups challenge Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" slogan
The political advocacy groups MoveOn.org and Common Cause filed a petition Monday with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming Fox News' use of the slogan "Fair and Balanced" constitutes deceptive advertising. The groups claim that Fox News' reports are "deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint." FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris said in a statement late yesterday that the petition has little chance. "There is no way to evaluate this petition without evaluating the content of the news at issue. That is a task the First Amendment leaves to the American people, not a government agency." A Fox News spokeswoman told The Associated Press: "While this is clearly a transparent publicity stunt, we recognize all forms of free speech and wish them well."
Waco finally gets Fahrenheit 9/11 print
Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 is set to open Friday at a theater in Waco, Texas, about 20 miles west of President Bush's Crawford ranch. Fahrenheit 9/11, which has grossed $93.8 million to date, opened nationwide June 25 but theaters in Waco--the largest city closest to Bush's home--have yet to show the film about Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The AP reports Moore contacted the newspaper after a column last month pointed out his documentary wasn't showing in Waco, and urged the filmmaker to send a copy. Since the film opened last month, the closest place Waco residents could see it was in the town of Temple, about 35 miles south.
Andre 3000, Silverstone named sexiest vegetarians
On a lighter note, Andre 3000 of the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo OutKast has been voted the "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" in PETA's annual online poll. The 30-year-old rapper shares the honor with 27-year old Alicia Silverstone. According to the AP, more than 12,000 votes were cast in the annual poll run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Silverstone and Andre 3000 beat out other contenders not normally known for their eating habits, including John Cleese, Prince and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Previous winners include Tobey Maguire, Lauren Bush and Shania Twain.
Nelly becomes part owner of Charlotte Bobcats
Rapper Nelly is now part owner of the NBA's North Carolina expansion team the Charlotte Bobcats. Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Haynes Jr., said he looks forward to learning the business of professional sports and becoming active in the Charlotte community. "Of the many dreams that I have fulfilled in life, being an NBA owner is certainly one of the biggest achievements," Nelly said in a release issued by the Bobcats. "To be able to make this move with Bob Johnson and to be a part of the first-ever minority owned professional sports franchise in history is a great opportunity." Nelly joins an ownership group that includes former NBA player and executive M.L. Carr; Felix Sabates, owner of NASCAR racing teams, and Hugh McColl Jr., former CEO of Bank of America.
Napster signs agreement with universities
Napster 2.0 online music service announced Monday it has signed agreements with Cornell University, The George Washington University, Middlebury College, the University of Miami, The University of Southern California and Wright State University to offer students its digital song subscription program beginning in the fall. Similar to deals Napster struck earlier this year with Penn State University and the University of Rochester in New York, the universities will receive access to unlimited streaming and song downloads at a discount but will be free to set the price students must pay for the discounted access, the AP reports. Penn State and the University of Rochester provide Napster service to their students at no extra charge. If students wish to burn songs to a CD, they will still have to pay Napster's regular 99-cent charge for a permanent download or $9.99 per album.
After wrecking things with his fiancée Felicia (Vivica A. Fox) Jerry (Cuba Gooding Jr) decides to book a cruise with his best friend Nick (Horatio Sanz) to find love and romance on the high seas. But when Nick inadvertently ticks off the travel agent he exacts revenge by booking the straight pals on a gay ship. Once aboard and stuck at sea Nick desperate to escape aims a flare gun at a passing helicopter so they can airlift them back to heterosexual land. Instead he causes the chopper to crash-land forcing its 12 chesty passengers members of a Swedish sun tanning team to take refuge on the boat. Nick spends the rest of the film trying to sleep with them but always ends up with the virile butch head coach instead. Meanwhile Jerry gets drunk falls into the pool and wakes up to find the beautiful dance instructor Gabriella (Roselyn Sanchez) performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him. He tries to sleep with her but she thinks he's gay. Jerry lets her believe this because it allows her to let her guard down undress in front of him and talk about meaningful things including how to give a good blow job. But hold on to your visors--there's a twist! Jerry's ex jumps on board mid-voyage to reclaim her man only to find him singing "I'm Coming Out" in a sequined thong.
The most devastating thing about Boat Trip is the fact that it stars Gooding. Is this the same actor who delivered a mind-blowing performance as Tre in John Singleton's 1991 directorial debut Boyz N the Hood and earned the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1996 for the role of football player Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire? At some point Gooding's film choices took a wrong turn and a string of debacles ensued: Rat Race Pearl Harbor Snow Dogs and now this. As Jerry Gooding who portrayed a gay art dealer so eloquently in As Good As It Gets spends 93 minutes proclaiming his heterosexuality and making really stupid faces at the camera. Although Gooding's character Jerry is a sweet guy he's also a flake and it's hard to relate to all the dumb choices he makes throughout the film. Jerry's pal Nick is played by Saturday Night Live alum Sanz (The New Guy) who during his two-year stint on the late night comedy sketch show displayed his versatility and comedic skill nailing impressions and garnering praise--including comparisons to the late SNL great John Belushi. In Boat Trip however Sanz's character Nick an oversexed twerp in a cabana shirt is reduced to being the butt of jokes.
Director Mort Nathan's Boat Trip should have been called The Love Boat: The Homophobic Voyage because it plays out like one of those two-hour TV movies based on the 1970s sitcom. But while the Pacific Princess promised us that love wouldn't hurt anymore it's as hurtful as can be on Boat Trip's deluxe ocean liner. Take Nick for example. He just wants a little lovin' from Swedish sun tanner Inga but is instead chased by the team's manly coach who likes to show off her deep-throat skills on a baseball bat. Not only is this disturbing it's not funny which is the problem with Nathan and William Bigelow's script. The humor isn't seamless and you can smell a joke's set up from a mile away. And unfortunately a bunch of bad jokes strung together do not a good story make--especially when the script is littered with two-dimensional characters. The most objectionable thing about this film however is not its crude humor or its cartoonish stereotypes but the fact that it actually tries to deliver a moral with its story. Jerry and Nick leave their cruise with the knowledge that straight dudes can actually be friends with gay guys because they can be professional businessmen too such as doctors and accountants. You don't say?